Friday, February 1, 2013

Fr Georges Massouh on Marriage and the State

Arabic original here. For more on religious leaders' reactions to the possibility of civil marriage in Lebanon, see here.

Civil Marriage and the Sovereignty of the State

The fatwa by Sheikh Muhammad Rashid Qabbani, Mufti of the Republic of Lebanon, that forbids civil marriage and any legislation that allows it in Lebanon confirms that any talk in terms of Islamic jurisprudence about the compatibility of Islam and the "civil state" lacks precision and frankness. This fatwa confirms our worries that there are still frightful things blocking our path to a true civil state.

Researchers in Islamic studies would not be surprised that the fatwa states that "Any Muslim in the legislative or executive branches who agrees with legalizing civil marriage, even on a voluntary basis, is an apostate and outside the Islamic faith. [When he dies] he cannot be washed, dressed, prayed over, or buried in Muslim cemeteries." This is because Muslim scholars, ancient and contemporary, unanimously reject civil marriage and consider it contrary to Islamic law.

The mufti Sheikh Hasan Khalid (d. 1987), for example, made precisely the same ruling and categorically rejected civil marriage, "We as spiritual leaders reject civil marriage because in its legislative clauses and texts it opposes Islamic law, since it permits the marriage of a Muslim woman to a Christian or Jewish man. (Interview with the Lebanese magazine "al-Hawadith," Nov. 28, 1975).

Thus Mufti Qabbani's position is not new and it is not contrary to the consensus of muftis and legal scholars. However, in the current circumstances that the Arab countries are going through, and growing talk of efforts to establish a civil state, it leaves no room for doubt that there is no credibility to any of what is being promoted about the compatibility of the civil state and Islamic law, as is put forward in contemporary Islamic literature, and the possibility of their frictionless coexistence. Mufti Qabbani goes so far as to demand that civil marriage be rejected and cast aside, equating this to jihad when he states that it "It is an individual duty for every Muslim man and woman and is incumbent on all Muslim scholars in Lebanon, of every Muslim sect."

There is no true civil state without civil personal status laws. It is fundamental to the state for it to have sovereignty over all its institutions, foremost among them the judiciary. For the state to wash its hands of one part of the judiciary and to completely hand it over to religious bodies means that its sovereignty is violated and incomplete. For Lebanese men and women to have to go to foreign countries in order to have a civil marriage recognized by the state is hypocrisy upon hypocrisy. It causes the state-- aside apart from its opposition to the principles of true citizenship-- to lack sovereignty and to suppress universal freedoms and human rights.

The civil state is out of reach, not just because of Mufti Qabbani's fatwa. Rather, it is because the crisis of Arab societies-- and Lebanon is no exception-- is getting worse.

Those who support proposed electoral laws based on sectarianism cannot frown at Qabbani's fatwa since they have embraced decadence and are adding fuel to its fire.

No one who demands the rights of Christians or of Muslims but at the same time ignores the rights of the individual citizen has any right to reject a religious fatwa that permits one thing or forbids another. It is a single mentality that springs from a single source and only produces flocks ready for the slaughter.

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